Ponder cleaner water

Learn the benefits of one type of pond cleanup and how often you should clean water features on the course.

January 5, 2009
Heather Wood Taylor

Course superintendent Kyle Kanny struggles with unwanted growth on the ponds at the two courses of River Ridge Golf Club in Oxnard, Calif. The bodies of water on the courses are shallow, which, combined with the almost constant warm weather, make them more susceptible to unwanted growths that can lead to unhealthy water.

“Dead leaves, dead weeds, blowing dust and dirt all eventually fill in the bottom of the pond, and it kills the pond,” says Brian Pirl, general manager of Chicago-based U.S. AquaVac.


The silt takes away the oxygen the pond needs to thrive, gradually turning it into a swamp and making it susceptible to unwanted organisms, such as algae blooms. Swamp-like conditions also lead to more insects, Pirl says.

Knowing the activity couldn’t be good for the ponds, Kanny decided to take action and get to the root of the problem. He learned of U.S. AquaVac, a company that vacuums bodies of water to rid them of unwanted sediment. The company, which uses divers that take vacuums to the bottom of the body of water, has cleaned ponds ranging in size from a quarter acre to 300 acres. Customers have included many courses preparing for PGA Tour events, Pirl says. In its eighth year of existence, it’s the only national company to clean ponds using this method, Pirl says. Other methods, such as draining, also exist.

“When you drain a pond, you have to pay to have it drained, then you have to wait for the sediment to dry before cleaning it out,” Pirl says. “This way, we can do it all while keeping the water in the pond and getting out all the silt.”

It’s an interesting and good way to clean the bottom of a pond, says Kanny, who manages about 20 acres of ponds on the older Vineyard course and the newer Victoria Lakes course. Most of the ponds are 18 to 24 inches deep.

“The shallower the ponds, the more difficult water management becomes,” Kanny says. “In areas they’ve vacuumed, the ponds have shown remarkable improvement.”

Kanny’s main water problem is algae bloom.

“You can go with different types of chemistry and take care of it that way, but this seems to be a more holistic way of dealing with a bigger problem,” he says.

Pirl recommends having ponds cleaned every 20 to 30 years. Kanny has U.S. AquaVac come to the course for a week each year to clean an acre each time. He does this because of budget constraints – it costs $10,000 to $12,000 for that amount of cleaning each year.

Kanny favors having the company start from the beginning again once all the ponds have been cleaned. GCI